7 Things I appreciate most about Germany
- some things you only miss when they're gone
This is a little addendum to my previous posts on how Mexico has changed my habits and beliefs and about the things I miss most about Mexico.
After talking to my mum this morning, I realized that maybe I was a little too negative about my home country Germany in my comments. Of course, there are many things I really do not miss about Mexico and thoroughly appreciate about Germany. And I would also like to mention that not all Germans are pessimistic, stressed and unappreciative. But especially here in Stuttgart, it is the dominant vibe in society and the vibe that has influenced me the most growing up.
So here are the 7 things I really appreciate about living in Germany:
If I could name only one thing that I appreciate most about being back, it would be safety. This is one of the things you only realize you have when it is gone. For me, this basic level of safety that allows you to walk wherever you want whenever you want, alone or with people, let your kids play outside, let them walk to primary school on their own, wear your bag dangling loosely form your shoulder, keep your new phone in your hands on the bus, go for a run in the woods, was something completely normal and self-evident.
When my family moved to Brussels, things were a little different. There, kids were taken to school and you did have to take care of your belongings on the metro and in the city centre. But still, I never felt restricted by insecurity. In Mexico, it is a whole different chapter. Going for a run on my own? Only in broad daylight and where there are lots of people, and without my phone. Flashing your new phone on the bus? Only if you want it to get stolen. Kids playing outside? Never ever.
Only after experiencing what it truly feels like to have to be cautious in every step you take, every encounter, even everyday things like fetching tortillas for lunch, I can truly appreciate the level of safety we enjoy here in Germany. Feeling safe, in my opinion, creates a lot of freedom and significantly increases living standards.
2. Interest in politics and belief in change
While Germans like to complain and can find fault with everything, this complaining also has a positive side to it. Dissatisfaction with the status quo is a great driver for change. In Mexico, oftentimes, there is a certain complacency about the political and economic situation and even individual hardships. In general, Mexicans do not complain, but they also do not strive to find better solutions. Sometimes it seems as though they accept the status quo as unalterable and the only thing they feel is in their control is their emotional and mental reaction to it. Interestingly enough, in Germany, the opposite is the case: Many people think the outer situation can be changed – and has to change – while their reaction to it is unalterable.
These different approaches to life also reflect in the attitude to politics. While most Mexicans show resignation and do not even care to vote “because the elections are all rigged anyway”, the level of political engagement in Germany is much higher. Movements like the Friday marches against climate change would not happen in Mexico, because why bother.
3. Public Transport
This one I knew I would miss: public transportation. I grew up using trains and busses and never had a car since I always lived pretty central. I know this is not so for all Germany, some are “car families”, others are “train families”. In my “train family”, we are so used to taking the train to commute between cities that I was asked on several occasions how the train connection was between Mexico City and Toluca. This question made me laugh. There is no train. To be fair, they are building one, but the inauguration date keeps getting pushed back.
The metro in Mexico City is quite efficient in getting you from A to B, and there are several bus lines to get you around Toluca, but the busses are quite dangerous and there is no official schedule or anything. And of course, busses get stuck in traffic just like private cars. While the public transportation system around Stuttgart could really do with some improvement, it still takes you pretty much anywhere you want to go in the area.
4. Calm, relaxed city centres
Another thing I immediately noticed when I got back was the quietness of the city centres. Berlin seemed downright empty to me compared to bustling Mexico City. When I visited family in Tübingen the other day, I really enjoyed the carefree and relaxed atmosphere of the historic city centre. As a university town with a large historic centre, Tübingen maybe sticks out as especially nice. But many German towns have a centre with a large pedestrian area where people can walk carefree.
On a Saturday afternoon, people enjoy their coffee in the sun, meet friends, eat ice cream, do their shopping or just walk around to see and be seen. There are no cars or shouting street vendors and everything seems a lot calmer and less chaotic than in Mexican towns. At some point, I’m sure I will also miss the chaos. But for now, a little calm and quiet is nice.
5. Beautiful summer nights
Oh how I missed them last summer in Mexico- the long, warm summer nights when the sun is still out at 9 pm and you can walk around in the middle of the night. The soft summer air wraps around you like a blanket and everyone sits outside sipping a glass of wine, with some soft guitar music in the background as the first stars appear on the night sky. Yeah I know, not every summer day ends like this, but I actually had just such an evening the other day on my aunts balcony in Tübingen, including the guitar music.
In most places in Mexico, you can pretty much always walk around in a t-shirt, day or night. But still, it is different if it is already pitch-black at 8.30pm. And in Toluca, you can pretty much never wear only a light shirt at night, it gets too cold when the sun sets. And forget about people gathering in the town square to sip their white wines and cold beers they brought along, play guitar music or just chat in soft voices. Maybe because it is relatively warm throughout the whole year and the difference in daylight hours is small, the summer nights have nothing special about them. No magic. Oh, and it is likely to rain at night in summer, in Mexico.
6. Functioning Mail Service
I never thought I needed a mail service that badly, until I did not have one. I don’t know what was wrong with our address in Toluca, but none of the cards my family sent me there ever arrived. We did not order anything from amazon to our address there, because we deemed it too risky. And correspondence with the bank or an authority can only be done in person or on the phone – and they hardly ever pick up the phone. Sending an important document via old-fashioned mail is a risky endeavour in Mexico. Here in Germany, the mail service appears to be slower than it used to be, but it still works. The public administration uses it as its main means of communication. This is a little outdated and delays processes, in my opinion, but I still prefer being able to mail a document to having to deliver it in person.
All in all, life in a “first world” country is easier on a strictly practical level. We are so used to the many commodities we have here that we do not even realize how good we have it. With my articles, I do not want to judge the way of life in any country. I simply want to raise awareness and point out that what we consider “normal” in one part of the world may be a great luxury in another place. With this in mind, I would like you to think about it for a moment: What is the luxury you most take for granted?